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One man’s crusade to open-source cannabis DNA

One man’s crusade to open-source cannabis DNA

David Bienenstock | December 11, 2019

In the late 1990s, Kevin McKernan worked as a research and development manager on the Human Genome Project (HGP), at the time one of the largest scientific research projects in human history. That massive effort was publicly funded, but by the time the work was successfully completed, up to one-fifth of the human genome had been privately patented.

Vowing not to let the same fate befall cannabis, McKernan decided that the best way to circumvent future attempts to patent all or part of the plant’s DNA would be to create a genome map for a specific strain and put it in the public domain.

So in 2011, McKernan and his newly formed company, Medicinal Genomics, mapped the DNA of a high-THC strain called Chemdog. After making the data publicly available using Amazon’s EC2 cloud computing system, McKernan informed the U.S. Patent Office so the federal agency would have that information on hand if and when an individual or corporation applied for a patent covering the same ground.

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